Juneteenth message from Troy Vaughn on Probation

As I sit in my study to write this month’s executive statement for the newsletter, my mind and heart is moved to speak about the probation reform that is still needed in our county. On June 16th we will celebrate Juneteenth in this nation, and that’s a good thing. I think about the fact that when President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1863 which declared a formal end to slavery in the United States, change was not instant after the proclamation. In fact, it took nearly two and a half years later, on June 19th, 1865, before the enslaved African Americans of Galveston, Texas got the news by way of the Union army troops that freedom had come at last. When I think of The Emancipation Proclamation, I can see how freedom is both realized and delayed.

This seems to be the theme of how we engage in the process of real, meaningful, criminal justice reform in this county. There is no shortage of commissions and motions that create roadmaps and make recommendations that paint the picture of freedom and reform that is realized and canonized in a document, but delayed in the implementation of what the needs of the people in the community are.

We are grateful for the work done by Probation Reform Implementation Team (PRIT) that was formed in 2018 to synthesize and prioritize recommendations to reform the Probation Department and submit a comprehensive work plan for reform to the County Board of Supervisors. That work was massive, and it was completed and led to the creation of the Probation Oversight Commission (POC) and a roadmap of recommendations that if implemented can reform the probation department.

My questions are: Why does it take the threat of a state-ordered shutdown of its juvenile halls by the California Board of State and Community Corrections for Los Angeles County to see that The Probation Department is failing in its current state? Was it not clear when we can’t seem to keep key top leadership position? Was it not clear in the comprehensive reports and recommendations? Was it not clear in the inhumane way our youth have been treated in our juvenile halls and camps for years? So bad that many officers say they’re too traumatized to come to work. Living quarters for youths are decrepit and programming is sparse.

Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful that we are finally woke and we appear to be taking steps to really engage; and while written motions are great, we must be in motion to enact change. We must stop writing and start doing! Maybe we need depopulate the halls and create homeless shelters; clean of out the camps and create after school programs and community engagement centers so our youth don’t get in trouble in the first place.

On this Juneteenth, I encourage us to call on our leadership to take up the roadmap many of us helped to create. The dangers of ignoring the voices of the people should be clear. Reforming the Probation Department is paramount! We cannot delay the reform that we clearly realize is needed anymore.  It is time to unequivocally abandon the idea that putting human beings in cages or in bondage can somehow serve society. We are better and we need better solutions.

Admittedly, we may not have a clear picture of exactly what a world without cages and shackles will look like, but at least we have a roadmap on how to get there, maybe it’s time to follow it? Our communities and our futures deserve better, and I believe together we can get there.

Onward and Upward
Pastor Troy F. Vaughn